Kurt Braunohler has been cutting his teeth in the comedy biz for over a decade with both his unique take on common topics and his always hilarious encounters with strangers. I got the chance to talk with Kurt a few weeks ago about how he got started, his debut album, and pricing out skywriting.
So youíve been gaining a bit of notoriety lately for what I guess could be called your mantra, which is to insert stupidity and absurdity into strangersí lives. How did you realize that this type of humor was something you were really good at?
It kind of came about during one of the first things I ever did when I moved to New York, which was this weird performance art thing before I got into comedy, really. It was this weird performance art thing called Chenguin and Chunk. Chenguin was half chicken/half penguin, he was about eight feet tall, he shot eggs out his butt. And then Chunk was half chicken/half skunk, he was about nine feet tall, and he shot water out of his tail. They were these costumes that my friend had built, and we would just get in them and interrupt traffic in New York City by battling, because they hated each other. One of the last battles we did, over 2,000 people got involved, and we ended up shutting down Broadway for about 20 minutes, and it was really fun! That was always what I used to do, and we stopped doing it because it started getting very difficult to pull off, but it helped me realize that I loved that element of interacting with the world in a very weird way, so I started incorporating it into my comedy and my stand-up.
So it almost preceded your introduction to comedy, then?
Yeah, it really did. I mean, I was improvising at the time, but this was totally just a separate thing outside of improv even.
The most recognizable example now that people are talking about now is your skywriting endeavor. Itís called ďHow Do I Land?,Ē which is basically you having a plane write that phrase in the sky. Did you realize right away that this was something you were going to need to get Kickstarted involved with?
Yeah, just because I had the idea, then I found out [laughs] it cost 4,000 dollars to get 11 characters.
Thatís a lot of capital for something like skywriting.
No shit, right? I guess thatís why only big companies do it.
Youíve also dabbled in such things as signing books from the authors, putting personal messages in greeting cards then putting them back on the shelves, and replying to random people on Craigslistís Missed Connections forum. All of those sort of have that connected level of anonymity. Does that factor into your reasoning behind doing it at all?
I do like the anonymity, because I like it to feel like it just came from the universe and not from a specific person. Like, if someone knew a comedian had done that, I think it would be judged differently, but if someone happens to come across it randomly and it brightens up their day, it kind of feels almost magical--
If you think itís like fate doing it.
Yeah, because that way itís like ĎOh, look at this surprising thingí as opposed to Ďthis is some stupid thing that guy Kurt does.í
Youíve taken that specific kind of humor and transferred it into your own podcast, The K Ohle, and based off the conversation weíve had thus far, itís not too surprising when I say itís not your typical podcast. Youíve got three different Ďcategoriesí so far, and you say you have more coming. Is that why you started doing a podcast now, because it can be a revolving door of bits you want to do on any given week?
Yeah, I mean, I like the freedom of it. I like that you can do certain things on a podcast that you couldnít do on a TV show. People let you go to weirder places, but also when things become popular on a podcast, they can become a TV show, so itís kind of a way to prove the validity of format structures over a number of mediums, but it's also a learning ground, like Ďoh, this definitely doesnít work! They were all right!í
Speaking of TV, you worked in that for awhile with the criminally underrated game show Bunk. With this question, I feel like Iím probably getting all of our hopes up for nothing, but I need to ask it, is there any positive news to be given about more Bunk?
No, Bunk was cancelled a long time ago, unfortunately.
Alright, because I swore I read a rumor somewhere that it was coming back in another medium, particularly a web-series. Thatís really too bad.
Yeah, it was such a fun show to make.
Did you have much of a role on that show past your hosting duties? Because with the writing style and format of the show, it made such perfect sense for you to be the host.
Yeah, I actually helped develop the show. The idea was a guy named Ethan G. Berlinís, and he involved his partner Eric Bryant, and they brought me in early on for the development of it all, so we shot our own pilot independently and sort of shopped it around, so I was involved from the beginning, and then also I was a writer on the show. If my tone comes through, itís because I was writing a lot of those jokes.
Yeah, it definitely does. At least you have those 10 episodes, they canít take that away from you.
Oh, thanks, man.
So you also host a live stand-up show called Hot Tub with your creative partner Kristen Schaal, and stand-up is sort of a far cry from the other comedic...experiments that you do, all the things we talked about before, what have you, so Iím curious, do you ever feel like your writing process leans too far to one direction? Is it hard to find a balance?
Really, I make my living doing stand-up, so thatís where the majority of my efforts lie. Maybe that will change at some point in my career, but right now, I really love doing stand-up and I really like going to other cities and touring, and just going up by myself and making people laugh. I really love that right now, Iíve sort of been obsessed with it for the past five years. But all those other things I do out in public, Iíve found a way to do those on stage as well, so itís nice to be able to have that in addition. I feel really lucky to be able to be doing a little bit of everything.
There truly is a certain magic when it comes to doing stand-up, and itís undoubtedly a huge deal to have an album coming out. Have you noticed any changes leading up to the release of the record?
I honestly still donít know. I really donít know what things are going to be like. I mean, right now, Iím doing a whole bunch of shows to support the album, but it still hasnít come out yet, so I havenít had the chance to see how everything is going to be affected. All I know is itís going to be very nice to have a physical copy of the album, this representation of a few years of my life and work. I like that a lot, I think thatís very satisfying and cool, but as far as my life changing, I think weíre still to find out, you know? This is my first time, so I gots no idea.
How Do I Land? is out today on Kill Rock Stars. You can check out my review of the album, and buy the record on the KRS site. Kurt also has a record release show featuring numerous special guests at The Bellhouse in Brooklyn on August 27th, and tickets to that are available now. Lastly, you can listen to Kurt's recent appearance on the Nerdist podcast over at the Nerdist site.